Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen projects that 50% of U.S. colleges will go bankrupt or close over the next 10 years. The primary reason is a broken business model that is financially unsustainable. Complicating the problem is a downturn in the number of traditional-age college students with an unprecedented drop by 2026.
There are more than 4,000 institutions of higher education in the United States competing for a shrinking pool of college students.The state of Oregon began an experiment with free tuition at community colleges in 2016. The community colleges benefited by increased enrollment, but public four-year universities have experienced an enrollment decline. In addition, the number of first-generation and low-income students participating in the Oregon program was lower than expected.
I do agree with Sandra Kurtinitis (“Cost-free college is an investment in communities,” May 24) that “free tuition” should have a profound effect on college affordability for many lower-to-middle-income students and families. However, there are likely to be serious consequences for public and private four-year universities that are already challenged by the shrinking pool of traditional-age college students.
Education is a top priority for our elected officials in Maryland. Our leaders should proceed with great care on “free college” to preserve the state’s enormous financial investment.
Jan Moylan Wagner, Owings Mills